I'm a second grade teacher and am reading Gooney Bird Greene to my class. We read the last chapter today, although all the better readers have read ahead. After reading about Keiko wanting to bring a parasol when she told her story, one little guy asked, "Why does she need a power saw?"
Lois Lowry's Blog
Way back last summer, at the request of Weekly Reader, I wrote the brief beginning for a story that kids would continue, paragraph by paragraph, and that I would then, at the end, conclude. Here's the website where all of this happens: http://weeklyreader.com/wys/weeklywriter_story.asp
Previous writers who had participated, incidentally, were Stephen King, R.L. Stein, and Walter Dean Myers.
The editor told me that there were many, many contributions; she read them and selected the ones to be posted. This week she emailed me that it was time for me to write the conclusion to the story. I had not been reading the ongoing progressive story, so of course had to do that before ending it. Gulp! It went in so many different directions! And of course the writer's task is to pull all of that together.
It made me realize how aware, in writing a book, or a story, I always am, of the ending. Not the details. But the general wrapping-up, the way it will conclude. And therefore I am aiming everything toward that, even at the same time that I am weaving in complications and distractions.
The kids, of course, had nothing to aim at because they didn't have an ending in mind, just the ongoing "plot" and the characters I had created in the beginning (plus those they had added). That's why it went off in so many directions. I felt like a cowboy trying to lasso all of those critters to get them back into the corral and settled for the night....
Attached, a new edition of THE GIVER (click to enlarge) soon to come out in the UK...they've just sent me this proof. Interesting new cover which I think would be intriguing to a potential reader/buyer, and that he/she would not feel deceived upon reading the book.
My thanks to the school librarian who emailed me a copy of this note which she found on her library desk (I've erased the child's name, for privacy). Not that there is anything particularly eloquent or ingenious about it. It's just the charm of the child's printing combined with the passion of his (it was a boy) opinion.
Now: speaking of librarians, who are among my heroes in this world, along with teachers: most often my admiration stems from their willingness to defend the first amendment and to fight censorship attempts, often putting their own jobs in peril. But today I want to describe a librarian in a small Maine town—and I guess I can name names, because this has now been in the newspapers.
Linda Hall, the librarian in Sangerville, Maine, is a long-time friend of mine. The library where she works hired a local woman, Korean in origin but married to an American and living in Maine for some years, to teach art. Sae Hee Martin, according to Linda, generated such enthusiasm for art that they now have a waiting list for her classes.
And yet...AND YET! The town manager, in talking to Linda, and mentioning the art teacher, refers to her as "One Hung Low"...and when he saw her accompanying some students for an outdoor class in summer, wearing a wide-brimmed hat, said, "Don't you think she looks as if she belongs in a rice paddy?" I could go on, listing the incidents.....but to make a long story short, after months of such piggish, offensive behavior, the board of the library, spearheaded by Linda, has voted unanimously to stand behind the victim as she brings charges against the town manager....
Many, many, MANY years ago I wrote a book called "Autumn Street", which remains one of my personal favorites, perhaps because it was (is) autobiographical (though written as fiction) and the little-girl narrator—I called her Elizabeth—in a small Pennsylvania town in the early 1940's is actually me.
Although the child protagnanist/narrator is very young, it is not a book for young children. It deals with loss, and with anguish, and with a young child's groping toward coming to terms with those things (writing this, the classic "A Death in the Family" by James Agee comes to mind because it grapples with the same themes).
I thought this morning of a short paragraph form "Autumn Street" and went and looked it up. Here the two little girls—Elizabeth and her slightly older sister, Jessica—are in bed in the room that they share, and have been talking. Then, after a silence:
"Good night, Jess," I whispered, but she was already asleep, breathing softly. I realized then, for the first time, that her dreams would always be different from mine.
In truth, I do remember a moment from my early childhood when I had that sudden awareness—psychiatrists have a term for it, but I have forgotten what it is—that I was separate from others, and individual, and unique. (My memory is not the scene I created in the book, but took place outside, and near a magnolia tree beside my grandparents' house, so that I am very aware, thinking of it, of bruised and velvety pinkish-white blossoms on the ground, though I can't bring back any other details)....
When I was in Maine earlier this week, my friends Dan and Lucia came for dinner. I like having company for dinner when I'm there alone (okay, with Alfie, but he only eats from a bowl on the floor) because otherwise I don't eat, or eat junk. But Dan and Lucia came over and I made a beef stew and an apple pie...from my own apples! ...and a salad with roasted beets and Brie. Okay, enough about food. My point is that Dan told me about something called Pandora.com
If you go to that website you can see this for yourself. But basically, Pandora creates a radio station on your computer and plays the music of your choice, which is why right now, as I answer email and do my morning computer stuff, I am listening (with no commercial interruptions) to Eva Cassidy and Norah Jones and KD Lang. Pandora, using its computer skills, will go on to to sleect other singers who sing in the STYLE of Cassidy, Jones, and Lang and play them as well (but if I dislike any, I have only to tell Pandora: don't play HER again) and she obeys.
So I have now created five different personal radio stations and can go back and forth, genre to genre, artist to artist, and it is quite an amazing and wonderful thing. And free.
It's also yet one more time-waster.
A note from a blog reader says: I remember jumping in piles of leaves. Probably because of that fun, and the fascination of watching the leaves burn, autumn has remained my favorite season. Is the rustle of fallen leaves one of your favorite sounds?...
With the time change, having returned from England, I was up early this morning...as was Alfie, home from the kennel and eager to to play at 5:30 AM....but the rest of the house is s till sleeping, and right now it is a houseful, with visiting stepchildren and step-grandchildren ( three of them: 16, 11, and 11) here overnight en route from Martha's Vineyard, where they spent Thanksgiving, back to Miami, where they live.
And now the Patriots are 11-0 but it was scary last night, not a romp like some previous games.
Raining when I got up, and I was concerned because I am supposed to drive to Maine later today, and of course in Maine it could be snow and a difficult drive. But the weather on the internet tells me no, rain there as well.
Still in London (this is a photo of my hotel here), still going to the theater every night...thank goodness the stagehands' strike has not yet traveled across the pond. Two nights ago, a dazzling production of MacBeth, with Patrick Stewart...yes, the Star Trek guy...who knew he was a brilliant classical actor? (Well, obviously the producer who cast MacBeth)
Last night, the muscial Billy Elliott, from the charming film of a few years ago. Tonight, Shadowlands.
But what about daytime, if you are in another city but one you've been to often before, so you're not really a tourist and no thank you, don't WANT to see the crown jewels again?
Well, yesterday I went to Old Bailey. This is a fairly well-kept secret, I think, that visitors, if they can find the special entarnce and go through the metal detector and the patting-down search for contraband, and are not carrying a camera, and promise to be very very quiet...can sit and watch the criminal court in action. That's what I did yesterday, and happened on a murder trial. Tawdry plot: drugs; hooded sweatshirts; knives; guns; cash. But the dialogue was wonderful:...
This is the address to which book donations should be sent:
Rollinsford Public Library
Cutter Family Properties
1 Front Street
Rollinsford, NH 03869
RJ Bolian, the 14 year old boy who spent three years getting this library up and running—because his town had none—tells me that they are especially short of children's books. The library isn't officially open yet. But wouldn't it be great if, when it does open, at the first of the year, it is well-stocked, even overflowing, because of the generosity of poeple impressed with the inititaive of this young boy?
I'll send some as soon as I am back home. Right now I am in London, on vacation...and who, you might ask, goes on vacation to the most expensive city in the world, during the month that it is cold and rainy?
Well, that would be me. I love London, especially the theater here, and so we are spending a week in a small hotel (I am writing this in a fireplaced parlor)—once an elegant private home—and have theatre tickets almost every night. Everything IS expensive because of the very low value of the dollar. But you can find ways to keep costs down. Eating in a pub is both pleasant and cheap...a dinner for 7-8 pounds, for example. Cheaper than Boston. Food is not fabulous...but then "British Cuisine" has always been something of an oxymoron. Travel by tube is easy, convenient, and inexpensive (though I would not want to be handicapped. The London tube is not well-equppied for handicapped)...
Recently I posted information and a photo of the young boy who has succeeded in bring a library into being in his library-less town in New Hampshire. The library will probably open at New Years. I've had several inquiries from readers who are interested...as I am...in donating books; so I have written to RJ, age 14, to ask him how we can do that, and I'll post the information here when I have it. Thank you all for wanting to support this kid and his wonderful project. If only the world were filled with such youngsters! It does remind us all, though, how energetic, determined, and outstanding some teenagers are.
I'm writing from a hotel lobby in London. The weather here reminds me of the name that Benjamin Moore gave to the color that I had my downstairs rooms in Maine painted: November Rain. A mix of gray and pale green. All of London looks like that, at least today.
My studio in Maine, the room in which I work, is painted Rain Barrel.
Wouldn't you love to be the person who names those paint colors? Maybe for a day, anyway.
Back in 2004, when Robert (or R.J.) Bolian, then eleven years old, first contacted me, it was because he had decided that his town—Rollinsford, New Hampshire—needed a library. I agreed with him. I told him then that a town with no library was like a body with no heart. It took him a while—three years; he is now fourteen—and a lot of work and fundraising (a cookbook, bake sales, a craft show, donatons) and imagination. But here is Robert signing the lease on the space that will soon be Rollinsford's public library.
I plan myself, to send him...or rather, the library...lots of books. I have many more than I have shelf space for and I can't imagine a better home for them. Good work, R.J.!
I just returned yesterday from New Haven, where I had gone to be a guest at a "Master's Tea"...something I had not known about before the invitation. Ostensibly it was to be tea in the beautiful living room of a Master's House...the master being one who oversees one of the "houses" at Yale....and conversation with those students who are interested. Stidents invite guests of all sorts...the film producer Oliver Stone had been there, and during my stay, the author Dava Sobel was a guest at one of the other houses. It's a lovely tradition.
But amazingly, we had to move from the gracious living quarters into the dining hall...(see photo) ...because 500 students came! I got to sip tea anyway..because I grumpily insisted on my Earl Grey!...but it was not the cozy settng we had anticipated. Yet we did, I think, succeed in making it feel informal....there were lots of questions, and it was nice to feel the nostalgia of the students for the books they had loved when they were younger.
Thank you, Yale! I suppose I will still root for Harvard in the Harvard-Yale game...but I will have a fondness for Yale in the future as well.
I wnat to alert people to a new website—http://adlit.org—devoted to adolescent literature, and to - within the site - lengthy intereviews with (so far) several authors, including me—http://adlit.org/authors/Lowry . There will be more added. It's quite well done and very user-friendly....
I am off this morning to New Haven to speak to Yale students this evening. But before I leave I wanted to say thank you to all of those who have emailed me in support of The Giver and in outrage about the latest attempt to ban it. It means a great deal to me to hear those kind words.
An attention-grabbing title, right? It filled that role in the first paragraph iof the San Jose newspaper article abuot the ongoing attempt to ban THE GIVER there. It always troubles me when, in a book challenge situation, things are taken out of context, when for example I am portrayed as endorsing suicide or euthansia. Of course if one reads the book it is clear that I do not. But in the throes of hysteria, some book-banners don't get around to doing the obvious: i.e. reading the book. ("The author what? Promotes teen suicide? Of course I'll sign your petition!")
I did a live interview yesterday on a San Francisco radio station and wrote a letter to the San Jose paper, addressing the issue. But as always, I am—most of all—grateful to the librarians and teachers who again and again stand up against censorship. It is sometimes a lonely and scary battle.
My friend and neighbor, author Kathryn Lasky, is currently working on a book set during the book-burning in Germany under Hitler. She has actually hired my 14-year-old German granddaughter as a consultant—not on the history; Kathy is a top-notch researcher—but on the German language: what term of endearment, for example, would a mom use toward her daughter? I remember when Nadine, my granddaughter, was younger and we often called her "Bean"...her mom used to call her "Beanchen" (in the same way that "Gretchen" was originally a fond dimunitive of "Margret") And now that very same Beanchen is being a literary consultant (and, Kathy tells me, quite a good one).
I helped Kathy out another time, using my family...and here it is:
"Your eyes were bigger han your stiomach" is what my mother used to say when I was a llittle girl. I'm still not sure what it meant. But here is a photo of an amazing food item. Explanation:
I was in Amherst, MA, on Friday. Susan Bloom and I went there together in order to do an event at the wonderful Eric Carle Museum that evening. Susan "interviewed" me on stage...the event havng mostly to do wiht censorship....(it is a nice way to do a presentation, the two of us together, and I think less dull for the audience than just a "speech".. A lot of audience participation afterward, as well, with many questions.
Anyway. After the book-signing that followed, Susan and I...and Megan and Rosemary from the Museum...went out for a snack. or a glass of wine. or whatever.
The menu had a list of amazing desserts on it, so dessert is what we ended up having.
Here it is. This was ONE PERSON'S order. The plate was roughly the size of Rhode Island....
For a number of years I have been very active with PEN NEW ENGLAND, an organizaton for writers and anyone who loves the printed word and who cares about literary freedom.
Here is some information about our annual award, the Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award, and right now is the time of year to think about sending in your work to be considered.
Several winners from past years have gone on to have their work published successfully.
Each year, the PEN New England Children’s Book Caucus honors emerging writers and writer/illustrators with its Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award. Winners will present their work to the public at the PEN New England Children’s Book Discovery Evening in April 2008, and winning manuscripts will be read by editors from Candlewick, Houghton Mifflin, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, or Little, Brown and Company.
I am in Maine, have been here since Monday, will leave here Friday, and there has been—and will continue to be—baseball to watch in the evenings. Tonight my friend Lucia will join me for dinner and the first World Series game, and maybe my contractor and friend Dan will, as well.
But in the daytime I am working.
I have just typed page 11 of a new book. Is it astounding that it takes a person three days to write eleven pages...and at that, eleven pages that will ultimately be re-written again and again?
Of course today I also answered e-mail, and I went and got my hair cut, and I went to the PO to mail my granddaughter a birthday gift, and, and I did the NY Times crossword puzzle, and I am about to get out of this chair to go and make an apple pie because the apples are THERE and ripe and cry out for a pie to be made.
But each day, as I do such chores, I think over what I have just written...maybe 2 pages, or 3...and then, when I go back, it is to change and clarify and delete and expand and explain. So I have not written eleven pages. I've probably written, oh, I don't know, maybe 40 pages. Of which eleven remain....
I have two recurrent dreams, but I have never, until last night, had them in combined form.
One I have talked about before. Briefly: in the dream I have bought, or rented, or somehow acquired a new house and am moving into it. I discover a door—or sometimes it is a staircase—that I haven't known about, and it leads to a wonderful, previously-undiscovered room.
Many people tell me they have had this dream. (I should add, though, that they always women).
No one else I know, though, has had the actual experience, the way I have. When I bought this old farmhouse (I am in Maine as I write this) I had only seen it once. But I hired a painter and sent him paint samples with an outline drawing of the house interior, and instructed him which color to use in each of the ten rooms. He called me to ask what to do about the eleventh room. Gulp. I hadn't known there was an eleventh room.
(The eleventh room is now the studio where I work. The paint color is called "Rain Barrel" by Benjamin Moore)....
This is my son and my grandsons, and this is October in Maine. Now aren't you sorry, some of you, that you live in Arizona?
Only joking, of course. But it IS the best time of year here.
This evening I talked to those two little boys in the phone, and their dad was reading them "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," which I had sent them. "How do you like it?" I asked the nine year old. AWESOME, he replied. What a great feeling, to hear a kid describe a book that way.
It is the ninth innning of the Red Sox/Indians game; and that's another reason it's the best time of year here....
You can listen to a short interview, me and Roger Sutton of The Horn Book, talking about books-into-film, by going to http://www.hbook.com/audio/podcasts/lowry.mp3
I had the conversation with Roger some time ago and it's ironic that it's now available because just this afternoon I was talking on the phone to the producer of movie-to-be "The Giver." No special news there—these things move slowly—but I'm appreciative that they stay in touch.
One of the things I mentioned in the interview was the film of "To Kill a Mockingbird"...my recollection was that it was true to, and as good as, the book. By chance, though, I just happened to read, while returning from New York yesterday, a biography of Harper Lee; and it told me that the film, actually, was not terribly true to the book, something I didn't kmow or had forgotten. Gregory Peck wanted his role made larger and more important than the story of the children—and of coursethe book was really a coming-of-age story—so to comply with his wishes (and to attract an adult audience) it became much more about Atticus Finch than the book had, in fact, been. Nonetheless I remember the two separate things as a wonderful book and an equally wonderful movie.
I was in New York (after being in Eugene, Oregon) to speak at the NYPL's annual "Book Fest"...a lovely gathering (in a specatacular room at the NYPL) of mostly librarians and teachers: an interested and interesting audience, nice people to be with. And a good lunch!
As Roger Sutton's interview points out, I am a movie nut; and after the event at the NYPL, I went up to 68th street to see "Michael Clayton...only to find it sold out. Well, it's good that people are going—apparently in droves—to movies. And also good that, though I missed my movie, I was very near the huge Barnes and Noble where I could go have tea and goodies and browse...until time to meet friends for dinner and to watch the Red Sox game....